Well, stayed in Brussels longer than I was expecting yesterday and ended up casually wandering around the city looking for a friend to meet with a couch to share (not that I couldn't have stayed at Matarcar another night, but I had already said goodbye to everyone and was ready to start a new adventure). This city is starting to grow on me more and more, I suppose it is an acquired taste.
I spotted some graffiti in the part of the city I was in, among other tags was an anarchist sign and the ubiquitous international squatter symbol: good signs of good people. Sure enough, what used to be a squat but is now (from what I have understood) a type of social housing collective, was close by. The people outside spotted me first, called me over, and offered me a place to stay (I had my bags loaded on my bike and looked like a traveler at the time). They seemed like good people, and I was of course looking for a place anyway, so the offer ended up being the first of many serendipitous happenings of the evening.
The house, 123 Rue Royal, offers residents (i think about 25-30 people estimation) a place to stay based on a very reasonable sliding scale rent. I also understand that they occasionally take on people, like myself, for half-week periods for free, and then ask for a small monetary contribution for each day after that. There are hot showers, a bike workshop downstairs, a full kitchen, and I think about five or six floors in the building, mostly residents I presume.
I was given a tour of the house by a local political figure and activist by the name of Réginald de Potesta. He is extremely hospitable and a wonderful conversationalist. I think we ended up staying awake until three in the morning just talking and watching films.
During the tour of the facility, I met some familiar faces: A couple of other American kids whom I met a few weeks ago at Under the Bridge in Amsterdam. Their names are Kayne and Tovio and they are part of a band called "Calliope of the Future" (myspace/thecalliopeofthefuture). They are meeting up with a bicycle caravan starting in Bruges (a town in Belgium I have come so close to several times but have always missed) in a few days and casually riding through France to Spain and finally ending up in Italy in July for G8. I was planning on meeting Kegan to backpack in the Pyrenees anyway so I decided to join the caravan as well for at least the first leg of the trip (and potentially even join up with them later on down the road closer to G8, after traveling with Kegan and Connor).
Anyway, these two kids are uplifting and lighthearted and it is a brilliantly random and happy occurrence that we have crossed paths again, especially with the opportunity to ride together. As much as I am in love with my little black fixie, I must say I have a bit of envey, as they are each riding on tall bikes which are loads of fun and quite a spectacle rolling down the street. I never imagined that anyone would ride across a continent on a tall bike but as they rightly pointed out, I am the crazy one on a fixed gear. They at least have brakes, multiple gears, and lots of vertical stacking space for luggage, street performance & juggling equipment.
So that's the plan, I am going to spend another day tuning my bike in Brussel, then it is off to Bruges for the start of a bicycle caravan to G8... really could life get better? how did I get so lucky?